Read more, spend less: Here’s where you can get free books

Photo by Andrew Valdivia via Unsplash.

By Sam Cohen

March 19, 2024

March is National Reading Month, which is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been an avid reader from an early age. The first book I remember loving was “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman. I read the book so often, and with such enthusiasm, that over time, I damaged the spine. My grandmother tried to patch it back together with Scotch tape, but to no avail.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of falling in love with reading. Whether you experienced the sensation for the first time at home, at school, or at your local library, reading allows you to step into another world, another place.

To celebrate this feeling, we’ve put together a brief overview of resources where you can get free books—both hard copy and digital.

Public Libraries

Libraries are not only fundamental to reading, but they’re an important part of the community, too. Signing up for a library card is free in most areas. You’ll need a photo ID and proof of address to receive a library card in most towns and cities, but you can check your library’s specific requirements in advance online or in-person. You can also speak directly to a librarian for assistance.

Once you have your card, you’ll gain access to a wealth of free books, including hardcovers, paperbacks, digital copies, audiobooks, and much more, at the public library itself.

As an added bonus, you’ll also be able to digitally borrow audiobooks, ebooks, and magazines through the Libby App. Essentially, Libby is a library app by OverDrive that allows you to read and listen to books on your phone, tablet, or computer.

To create a Libby account, all you need to do is link your library card by inputting the card number into the app. From there, you’ll be able to borrow audiobooks, ebooks, and magazines through the same system you use at the physical library. Books can be put on hold, and you have approximately two weeks to read/listen to the title before you have to return or renew it.

One of my favorite things about having a Libby account is that I get to enjoy a variety of magazine and newspaper subscriptions I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. Libby is where I go to read The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Vogue, and several others.

Plus, the app saves your place while you’re reading/listening, so you can easily switch between your phone and tablet without losing your spot.

Little Free Libraries

Keep an eye out for Little Free Libraries that may be located in your area. These essentially operate on a “Take One, Leave One” premise where you take a book you’re interested in (for free!) and then leave a book on your next visit that you no longer need.

To find a Little Free Library near you, click here to access the organization’s interactive map where you can input your zip code, city, or state to narrow the results.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Free books are also available through several book distribution programs, including Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. According to the organization’s website, the program donates “books free of charge to children from birth to age five, through funding shared by Dolly Parton and local community partners in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Republic of Ireland.”

To register your child for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, you’ll need to select your country on a drop-down menu (which you can access by clicking this link to the website’s “Check Availability” section). From there, you’ll add your zip code, city, and state and see if the program is available in your area.

Similar book distribution programs are shepherded by organizations including Reach Out & Read and Reading Is Fundamental, which provide free books to children and offer programs where children are read aloud to to help boost their literacy development.

Local and Online Book Swaps and Exchanges

Local book clubs, community centers, and libraries often organize book swaps or book exchange events. Attendees bring books they no longer need and can choose from the selection of books others have brought to take home for free.

To find a local book club, check at a nearby library, community center, or independent bookstore for insight and information. Most of these places will have a bulletin board advertising available clubs. You could also start your own book club and advertise it at these locations to gain traction and meet like-minded people who can help you organize a book swap/exchange, in addition to running the group.

Looking for an easy way to swap books online? Become a club member of Paperback Swap. You can list books you no longer need and would like to swap for others you’re interested in picking up. According to the company’s website, this is how the process works:

  • List books you want to swap with other members.
  • After a book has been requested from you, you’ll mail it to the club member.
  • You have to pay postage for the books you send out, but the books you receive will have their postage paid as well, so you don’t have to pay extra to receive them.
  • You can keep the books you request or you can swap them again.

There are over 800,000 titles available on Paperback Swap—including paperbacks, hardcovers, textbooks, and audiobooks—so there’s no shortage of content to choose from.

Stuff Your Kindle Day + Stuff Your Earbuds Day

Diehard Kindle users, we salute you. If you love using your Kindle to consume ebooks and audiobooks, mark your calendars for “Stuff Your Kindle Day.” This event takes place several times a year, and TikTok user Probably Off Reading dedicated an entire video to the 2024 dates.

Romance lovers will be able to find new, free titles on Romance Bookworms (click here for the website) on April 23. Cozy Mystery is holding a similar event on April 25, which you can learn more about by visiting their website here. For more Stuff Your Kindle Day news, check out this LifeHacker article detailing how to access over 2,000 available titles on an upcoming Stuff Your Kindle Day.

Another date you should add to your calendar? Stuff Your Earbuds Day, which works similarly to the Kindle days. On Stuff Your Earbuds Day, Romance Audiobookworms and several other sites will have free audiobooks available. Probably Off Reading breaks down the whole process for you right here.

Additional resources

To learn more about how to find free audiobooks and video read alouds, free online books, and free or low-cost books, click here for Read Across America’s full list of resources.

Author

  • Sam Cohen

    Sam is the Editorial Product Manager in the Community Department at COURIER Newsroom. Prior to joining the organization, Sam worked as a writer and editor covering topics ranging from literature, health & wellness, and astrology to the British royal family and profiles of notable actors and musicians.

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